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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Ezekiel 14

 

 

Verse 1

Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.

Then came certain of the elders - persons holding that dignity among the exiles at the Chebar. Grotius refers this to Seraiah and those sent with him from Judea (Jeremiah 51:59). The prophet's reply, first, reflecting on the character of the inquirers, and, secondly, foretelling the calamities coming on Judea, may furnish an idea of the subject of their inquiry.

And sat before me - not at once able to find a beginning of their speech: indicative of anxiety and despondency.


Verse 2

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 3

Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?

These men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face. The heart is first corrupted, and then the outward manifestation of idol-worship follows: they set their idols before their eyes. With all their pretence of consulting God now, they have not even put away their idols outwardly: implying gross contempt of God. "Set up," literally, raised aloft: implying that their idols had gained the supreme ascendency over them.

Stumblingblock of ... iniquity - (see Proverbs 3:21; Proverbs 3:23, "Let not them (God's laws) depart from thine eye, then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble"). Instead of God's law, which, by being kept before their eyes, would have saved them from stumbling, they set up their idols before their eyes, which proved a stumblingblock, causing them to stumble (Ezekiel 7:19.)

Should I be inquired of at all by them? - literally, should I with inquiry be inquired of by such hypocrites as they are? (Psalms 66:18; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9.)


Verse 4

Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;

Every man ... that setteth up his idols in his heart ... and cometh - and yet cometh, feigning himself to be a true worshipper of Yahweh.

I the Lord will answer him that cometh [ baa' (Hebrew #935)] so the margin Hebrew reads But the text I the Lord will answer him that cometh , [ baa' (Hebrew #935)] - so the margin Hebrew reads. But the text Hebrew reading is, 'I the Lord will answer according to it [baah] according to the multitude of his idols;' the anticipative clause with the pronoun not being pleonastic, but increasing the emphasis of the following clause with the noun. "I will answer" - literally, reflexively. 'I will myself (or for myself) answer him.'

According to the multitude of his idols - thus "answering a fool according to his folly;" making the sinner's sin his punishment; retributive justice (Proverbs 1:31; Proverbs 26:4).


Verse 5

That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.

That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart - i:e., unvail and overtake with punishment the dissimulation and impiety of Israel hid in their own heart. Or rather, 'That I may punish them by answering them after their own hearts;' corresponding to "according to the multitude of his idols" (note, Ezekiel 14:4); an instance is given Ezekiel 14:9; Romans 1:28, "Even as they did not like [ ouk (Greek #3756) edokimasan (Greek #1381)] to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind" [ adokimon (Greek #96) noun (Greek #3563)]; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, God giving them up in wrath to their own lie.

Because they are all estranged from me through their idols. Though pretending to "inquire" of me, "in their heart" they are "estranged from me," and love "idols."


Verse 6

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols. Though God so threatened the people for their idolatry (Ezekiel 14:5), yet He would rather they should avert the calamity by "repentance."

Turn yourselves. Calvin translates, 'turn others'-namely, the stranger proselytes in the land. As ye have been the advisers of others (see Ezekiel 14:7, "the stranger that sojourneth in Israel") to idolatry, so bestow at least as much pains in turning them to the truth-the surest proof of repentance. But the parallelism to Ezekiel 14:3-4 favours the English version; their sin was two-fold:

(1) "In their heart" or inner man.

(2) "Put before their face" - i:e., exhibited outwardly. So their repentance is generally expressed by "repent," and is then divided into --

(1) "Turn yourselves (inwardly) from your idols."

(2) "Turn away your faces (outwardly) from all your abominations."

It is not likely that an exhortation to convert others should come between the two affecting themselves.


Verse 7

For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:

The stranger - the proselyte, tolerated in Israel only on condition of worshipping no God but Yahweh (Leviticus 17:8-9).

Cometh to a prophet to inquire of him concerning me - i:e., concerning my will. Henderson translates [ low (H3807a)], 'for himself,' 'to inquire for his own satisfaction:' not "to inquire of him," as in the English version.

I the Lord will answer him by myself - not by word, but by deed, i:e., by judgments, marking my hand and direct agency, instead of answering him through the prophet he consults. Fairbairn translates, as it is the same Hebrew [ biy (H871a)] as in the previous clause, "concerning me," it is natural that God should use the same expression in His reply as was used in the consultation of Him. But the sense, I think, is much the same. The hypocrite inquires of the prophet concerning God; and God, instead of replying through the prophet, replies for Himself concerning Himself.


Verse 8

And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

And will make him a sign - literally, 'I will destroy him [ wah


Verse 9

And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

I the Lord have deceived that prophet - not directly, but through Satan and his ministers; not merely permissively, but by overruling their evil to serve the purposes of His righteous judgment, to be a touchstone to separate the precious from the vile, and to "prove" His people (Deuteronomy 13:3; 1 Kings 22:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Evil comes not from God, though God overrules it to serve His will (Job 12:16; James 1:13). This declaration of God is intended to answer their objection, 'Jeremiah and Ezekiel are but two opposed to the many prophets who announce "peace" to us.' 'Nay, deceive not yourselves, those prophets of yours are deluding you, and I permit them to do so, as a righteous judgment on your willful blindness.'


Verse 10

And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him;

They shall bear the punishment of their iniquity. As they dealt deceitfully with God by seeking answers of peace without repentance so God would let them be dealt deceitfully with by the prophet whom they consulted, God would chastise their sin with a corresponding sin: as they rejected the safe directions of the true light, He would send the pernicious delusions of a false one: prophets would be given them who should re-echo the deceitfulness that already done in their own bosom, to their ruin (Fairbairn). The people had themselves alone to blame, because they were long ago forewarned how to discern and to treat a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:3); the very existence of such deceivers among them was a sign of God's judicial displeasure (cf. in Saul's case, 1 Samuel 16:14; 1 Samuel 28:6-7).

The punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him - they and the prophet, being the dupes of a common delusion, should be involved in a common ruin.


Verse 11

That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me, neither be polluted any more with all their transgressions; but that they may be my people, and I may be their God, saith the Lord GOD.

That the house of Israel may go no more astray from me. Love was the spring of God's very judgments on His people who were incurable by any other process. That they may be my people, and I may be their God - (Ezekiel 11:20; Ezekiel 37:27).


Verse 12

The word of the LORD came again to me, saying,

The word of the Lord came again to me. The second part of the chapter: the effect which the presence of a few righteous persons was to have on the purposes of God (cf. Abraham's plea with God for Sodom, if ten righteous persons could be found in it, Genesis 18:24-32). God had told Jeremiah that the guilt of Judah was too great to be pardoned even for the intercession of Moses and Samuel (Psalms 99:6; Jeremiah 15:1), though their intercessions had prevailed formerly (Exodus 32:11-14; Numbers 14:13-20; 1 Samuel 7:8-12); implying the extraordinary heinousness of their guilt, since in ordinary cases "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (for others) availeth much" (James 5:16). Ezekiel supplements Jeremiah, by adding that not only those two once-successful intercessors, but not even the three pre-eminently righteous men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, could stay God's judgments by their righteousness.


Verse 13

Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:

Then will I ... break the staff of the bread - on which man's existence is supported as on a staff (Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16; Leviticus 26:26; Psalms 104:15; Isaiah 3:1). I will send a famine.


Verse 14

Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.

Noah, Daniel ... Job - specified in particular as having been saved from overwhelming calamities for their personal righteousness. Noah had the members of his family alone given to him amidst the general wreck. Daniel saved from the fury of the King of Babylon the three youths Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 2:17-18; Daniel 2:48-49). Though his prophecies mostly were later than those of Ezekiel, his fame for piety and wisdom was already established, and the events recorded Daniel 1:2 had transpired. The Jews would naturally, in their fallen condition pride themselves on one who reflected such glory on his nation at the pagan capital, and would build vain hopes (here set aside) on his influence in averting ruin from them. Thus the objection to the authenticity of Daniel from this passes vanishes. "Job" forms the climax (and is therefore put out of chronological order), having not even been left a son or a daughter and having had himself to pass through an ordeal of suffering before his final deliverance, and therefore losing the most simple instance of the righteousness of God, which would save the righteous themselves alone in the nation, and that after an ordeal of suffering, but not spare even "a son or daughter" for their sake (Ezekiel 14:16; Ezekiel 14:18; Ezekiel 14:20; cf. Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11).

They should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness - (Proverbs 11:4) not the righteousness of works, but that of grace-a truth clearly understood under the law (Romans 4:3).


Verses 15-21

If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:

The argument is cumulative. He first puts the case of the land sinning, so as to fall under the judgment of a "famine" (Ezekiel 14:13); then (Ezekiel 14:15) "noisome beasts" (Leviticus 26:22); then "the sword" (Ezekiel 14:17); then, worst of all, "pestilence" (Ezekiel 14:19): the three most righteous of men should deliver only themselves in these several four cases. In Ezekiel 14:21 he concentrates the whole in one mass of condemnation. If Noah, Daniel, Job could not deliver the land, when deserving only one judgment, "how much more," when all four judgments combined are justly to visit the land for sin, shall these three righteous men not deliver it!

Verse 19. If I send a pestilence ... and pour out my fury upon it in blood - not literally. In the Hebrew "blood" expresses every premature kind of death.

Verse 21. How much more - literally, 'Surely shall it be so now, when I send,' etc. If none could avert the one only judgment incurred, surely now, when all four are incurred by sin, much more impossible it will be to deliver the land.


Verse 22

Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters: behold, they shall come forth unto you, and ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, even concerning all that I have brought upon it.

Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant - not of righteous persons, but some of the guilty, who should "come forth" from the destruction of Jerusalem to Babylon, to lead a life of hopeless exile there. The reference here is to judgment, not mercy, as Ezekiel 14:23 shows. Ye shall see their way and their doings: and ye shall be comforted - ye, the exiles at the Chebar, who now murmur at God's judgment about to be inflicted on Jerusalem as harsh, when ye shall see the wicked "ways" and character of the escaped remnant, shall acknowledge that both Jerusalem and its inhabitants deserved their fate: this recognition of the righteousness of the judgment will reconcile you to it, and so "ye shall be comforted" under it (Calvin). Then would follow mercy to the elect remnant, though that is not referred to here, but in Ezekiel 20:43-44.


Verse 23

And they shall comfort you, when ye see their ways and their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord GOD.

They shall comfort you - not in words, but by your recognizing in their manifest guilt that God had not been unjustly severe to them and the city.

Remarks:

(1) God will not answer the inquiries of those who come before His presence in hypocrisy. So long as any idol is secretly set up in the heart, as well as when it is outwardly put before the face (Ezekiel 14:3-4), the Lord will not regard the prayer of such a hollow professor. The kind of answer which God gives to the hypocrite accords with the dissimulation with which he tries to vail his idolatries (Ezekiel 14:4). The hypocrite's sin is in righteous retribution made his punishment. God in wrath gives up the hollow self-deceiver to a strong delusion, so that he should believe his own lie.

(2) Yet even in the case of such self-deceivers and hypocrites God wisheth not their destruction; nay, he urges them most lovingly, "Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols." But then He requires a complete change of heart: "Turn away your faces from all your abominations" (Ezekiel 14:6). If there be lurking idolatry in the heart, which is sure to find for itself some outward mode of manifestation, so as to "set the stumblingblock of iniquity before the face," God will answer the hypocritical inquirer by direct judgments on him, making him a signal warning to others of the fatal end of insincerity in one's approaches to the Lord (Ezekiel 14:7-8).

(3) It is the most awful of all the judgments which God inflicts on a nation or on individuals, when God makes the ministers of Satan subserve his righteous judgments by deluding the willfully blind (Ezekiel 14:9). As they have tried to deceive God, so shall they, in God's judicial displeasure, be given over to be deceived by the lying prophets whom they consult. These blind leaders of the blind reflect back to their inquirers the self-deceits of the latter (Ezekiel 14:10). The very presence of such divining liars among a people is of itself a penal scourge from God: and the end of both deceivers and deceived alike shall be, "They shall bear the punishment of their iniquity" (Ezekiel 14:10).

(4) The ultimate issue to Israel of all the judgments of God shall be, "They shall go no more astray from the Lord, but shall be His people, and He shall be their God" (Ezekiel 14:11). How wonderful is the love of God to His people, which "many waters cannot quench, neither can the floods drown it"! ( Song of Solomon 8:7.) (5) Meanwhile judgment must take its course. So utterly guilty are the Jews, Ezekiel declares, according to the word of the Lord, that not even if there were among them men so eminently righteous as Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20) were, could their presence avail for the warding off of judgment from the people. Had ten righteous men been found in Sodom it would have been spared; but ten such men in Judea should deliver neither sons nor daughters, but only their own souls by their righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14-16; Ezekiel 14:18; Ezekiel 14:20).

(6) When those less highly privileged in spiritual things transgress, they bring down on themselves one or more of God's judgments; but when those most highly favoured of all by God transgress, and that with a presumptuous and high hand, what else can they expect but that all God's "sorest" judgments shall descend on them? (Ezekiel 14:21.) Having filled the full measure of their guilt, they must drink the full cup of God's wrath; nor can the few intercessors or righteous men among them avert it. When they escape one judgment another shall be waiting for them, so that they cannot escape (Ezekiel 14:20).

(7) Even the remnant that was to escape from Jerusalem was so guilty that the exiles at the Chebar would be constrained to acknowledge, that God's heavy judgments on Jerusalem were "not without cause" (Ezekiel 14:23). This is the preparatory stage to mercy. Not until God's ways with the guilty are vindicated and recognized as just, can there be scope for the exhibition of His everlasting love. Let us adore at once His justice and goodness, and, as monuments of His mercy, show forth His praises forever.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Ezekiel 14:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/ezekiel-14.html. 1871-8.

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Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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